Laugh Your Way to Health: Laughter Reduces Pain and Improves Well-Being and Health

Chuck Norris doesn’t use eye drops. He uses Tabasco.

Have you had a good laugh today? As the saying goes, “Laughter is the best medicine.” And it is true; the positive impact of laughter on health and well-being has been scientifically established – and it comes with no side effects!

Laughter Improves Wellbeing and Health

Laughter exerts a profoundly positive influence on the body, offering preventive measures against heart and circulatory problems [12], while bolstering the immune system and respiratory health [15].

Furthermore, laughter is a mitigating force against various diseases’ adverse effects. For instance, studies have demonstrated that in patients grappling with COPD, a sense of humor correlates with reduced depressive symptoms, anxiety, and enhanced quality of life [10].

In a comprehensive review by Yim [15], the myriad positive impacts of laughter encompass:

  • Alleviating stress, anxiety, depression, and tension.
  • Elevating mood, self-esteem, energy levels, and hope.
  • Enhancing mental faculties such as memory, creativity, and problem-solving.
  • Strengthening interpersonal relationships, fostering attraction, and deepening closeness.
  • Cultivating friendliness, helpfulness, and a sense of belonging.
  • Contributing to psychological well-being and an improved quality of life.

Regrettably, there is currently a lack of studies specifically focused on laughter’s effects on individuals with endometriosis.

Laughing Helps Against Pain

Beyond its broader health benefits, laughter is a potent antidote to pain, diminishing pain sensitivity and enhancing pain tolerance [1,5].

Participants were divided into two groups in a study led by researcher Stephanie Lapierre and her team. One group endured a 30-minute ordeal with a tedious documentary, while the other enjoyed a 30-minute comedic video extravaganza [9]. Remarkably, those who indulged in laughter during the funny video were notably less inclined to perceive pain in the same way as those subjected to the dull documentary.

When applied to chronic pain, consider the case of 41 women grappling with rheumatoid arthritis. Their exposure to a humorous story resulted in a substantial reduction in the levels of a pain-associated hormone, effectively aligning them with the hormone levels observed in a healthy control group [7].

This pain-relieving phenomenon is attributed to the release of happiness hormones, which reduce pain and alleviate stress. Furthermore, laughter contributes to the relaxation of tense muscles and relieves overall tension [1, 5,15]. Also, laughter’s efficacy in pain management is believed to stem from its distracting qualities, its role in fostering positive coping mechanisms, and its inherent social aspects [11].

Nevertheless, the research findings remain diverse, highlighting the importance of personal preferences and choices. For example, the effectiveness of humor in pain experiments appears to hinge on the alignment of the humor type with the individual and the autonomy of choosing the humorous content [11].

Laughter Therapy: Healing Through Humor

Laughter therapy, designed to enhance health and well-being through the power of laughter, is credited to its pioneer, Norman Cousins. Norman Cousins, who grappled with chronic pain resulting from a rheumatic disease, is the founding figure of this therapeutic approach. His personal experience led him to a profound realization: after indulging in just 10 minutes of hearty laughter, he found himself free from pain and could enjoy 2 hours of uninterrupted sleep. This transformative encounter propelled him to study laughter as a healing force [4].

Each patient carries his own doctor inside him.”

“Laughter is inner jogging.”

“Never deny a diagnosis, but do deny the negative verdict that may go with it.” – Norman Cousins

Laughter therapy offers a spectrum of creative approaches tailored to individual preferences. These may include using humorous videos, stories, games, music, or jokes [11]. Alternatively, participants can actively craft their sources of humor, such as books, photos, jokes, films, or cartoons. Moreover, they practice the art of infusing comedy into their daily lives [14].

A comprehensive review of laughter therapy encompassing 10 studies involving 814 participants yielded significant findings. The analysis concluded that laughter therapy effectively diminishes depressive symptoms and anxiety while enhancing sleep quality [16]. This therapeutic modality has also demonstrated the capacity to improve the quality of life among nursing home residents [6,8], bolster the resilience of women recovering from breast cancer [2], alleviate fatigue in young mothers post-childbirth  [13], and reduce anxiety and stress among women undergoing artificial insemination [3]. In this sense:

Chuck Norris is not only the last to laugh, he’s also the first to have the best laugh.


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Teresa Götz